NEWS10 Special Report: Learning with Minecraft

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – This is going to be music to some parent’s ears.  A Siena College physics professor sees so much value in Minecraft that she uses it to teach kids, and she says its time parents stop feeling badly about their children sitting in front of a screen for hours on end; at least not if they’re playing this game!

“Everything is just so amazing,” said 12-year-old Tatiana Varela.

Tatiana and her 11-year-old sister Catalina are very familiar with a certain room at Siena College. You can find them there on many Saturday’s playing Minecraft!  They are part of the Urban Scholars Program where Albany students get to explore math, science, history, and art through a video game.

“I had no idea, and then I realized, wow! Now I know things I didn’t know before,” said Tatiana.

These are words to warm any teacher or parent’s heart! Michele McColgan is the assistant professor of physics at Siena College. She also runs the Urban Scholar Program and several Minecraft summer camps. She says learning about science through Minecraft is painless for kids.

I’ve always been in favor of video games because they are always challenging you. So, it feels very much like science to me. To me it builds frustration tolerance. In science you need to have frustration tolerance to continue on that problem that you don’t know how to solve,” said Professor McColgan.

She uses Minecraft in lessons because it allows players to build things out of textured cubes in this 3-D generated world. You also explore, gather resources, and go into combat.

Today all four of these students are playing together under the guidance of Professor McColgan.

“You can build a castle, fight people, you can go to the moon…” said player, Jack Masson.

On his way to the moon, 14-year-old Jack Masson and his friend Nick Giordano may not even notice they are learning about physics terms such as ‘graphing’ or ‘slope.’

“One student said to me: I didn’t really understand the meaning of slope or graphing until I climbed up the ladder and put my zombie head at the point. Sometimes physically doing it provides understanding that you wouldn’t have just doing it on paper,” said Professor McColgan.

Each week a different Minecraft world is created to teach a lesson.

Kids get excited to learn by using a videogame you may have at home. This is why Professor McColgan says… Let them play!

“It provides a lot of those skills that you are looking for as a scientist. As a scientist you start with a problem and think about what tools do I need, what skills do I need,” said Professor McColgan.

Professor McColgan says her middle school students are so engaged, they don’t even realize how much they are learning, and the good news is, that might be the case for your kids too! If your child loves Minecraft, ask them to build something for you. Play along if you want to, and don’t feel badly if you’re not very good.

Jack’s Dad loves to play with him, even though Jack says his Dad keeps walking into walls! J

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